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Mar 27

Chris Smeaton

Words we should never hear in school!

Schools should always try to be safe havens for all students. Even with all the bully-proofing programs offered and the multitude of strategies that school employ, we will never create that panacea. But I believe as educators, we can do something relatively simple that will assist in ensuring that all students, regardless of background, religion, color, creed, ability, etc, can feel the positive effect of a safe and caring environment. That simple task is our attention to and elimination of words that should never be heard in a school!

I first started thinking about writing this blog post last year when a group of parents from our Parents Inclusive Education Roundtable brought a powerful video for our educators to view. Since then, the R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word campaign has gained international notoriety. Listening to these passionate parents talk about the word “retard or retarded” and how it made them and their children feel caused me to flinch and be overcome with a great sense of embarrassment and sadness. I know that I had used it before and I never addressed it in my educational life. Fortunately, I had a very patient mom explained to me why the R-word was so wrong. Simply put, the R-word is like any other minority slur.  Unacceptable!  

So, I call on all educators, to think of words that are commonplace in our schools and communities and then, quite simply, don’t allow them. Address it with your students and colleagues and teach them why they are unacceptable. Each of those words are minority slurs and schools should not tolerate them. Beginning in the younger grades, don’t allow name calling and as students get older don’t allow any word that may inflict hurt on another.

Here’s a short list that I’ve started and I hope that you will add to it: Racial slurs, Religious slurs, vulgarity, retarded, fag, gay, homo, geek, nerd…

Our world, beginning in our schools, needs to be more kind and gentle. Those attributes can only be accomplished when we say NO to unacceptable language in our buildings, our homes and our communities. Take a stand and be ALL IN and stop the words we should never hear in school!

4 comments

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  1. Anthony Purcell

    I agree with you in what you say. However, I feel having discussions of the words is more beneficial. Recently I had students discussing the word fag while they worked. I did not yell at them to stop talking, but rather listened in while working with other students. Their discussion led to them wanting to know the origin of the word. They were talking about what the word use to mean.
    After a little while they asked if they could get on their phone and look up the word. Yes, I could have allowed them, but I chose to look up the word in front of the class. I read all the definitions outloud. We ended up having a whole class discussion. What did we learn?
    Well, the definition they thought was not a definition. The definition they remembered was ‘tired’. They then chuckled and laughed when they said, “I am so fagged.” The class enjoyed it. They then wanted to know if they could use the word in that sense. I told them no. Then asked why I said no.
    They had the knowledgr to say it was because others would not view the word in the sense that they meant, therefore making it a “bad” word.
    A bad word is only bad because people say it’s bad and wrong and forbid it. I feel forbidding words makes the problem bigger. Instead, we need teachers to be honest discuss words with students and help them to choose their vocabulary more carefully.

    1. Chris Smeaton
      Chris Smeaton

      What you did was teach not ignore. Too often we walk by hearing words like that and simply… walk by! That is not acceptable. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Monica (@mom2mikey)

    I appreciate you directly addressing the use of the r-word. The spread the word to end the word campaign is working as this message is getting out there and I hear the word far less now then I did when Mikey was little (but that has required many conversations). I think it is important to remember the slurs that we use that put down people who have mental health challenges as well. I often hear words like crazy and mental thrown around as slurs. And we can’t forget to drop words like “spaz” out of our vocabularies as well. It goes deeper than just the r-word as it seems we have taken many words that refer to those with “disabilities” and turned them in to put downs.

    1. Chris Smeaton
      Chris Smeaton

      In our schools today we have to directly address any slurs and call it as it is, simply unacceptable. But more importantly we need to have those conversations you alluded to that help all of us better understand why those words are offensive. Many times these words have become so commonplace that we don’t we say them without even thinking about it. That is why we need to address them and deal with it directly, bringing it from the unconscious to the conscious.

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